Urban Forests & Climate Change: Urban Forest Project Protocol

Climate, Forests and Woodlands, Trees for Energy Conservation April 21, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Adapted from:" McPherson, E.G.; J.R. Simpson; P.J. Peper; and E. Aguaron. 2008. Urban Forestry and Climate Change. Albany, CA: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. Available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/ccrc/topics/urban-forests/

The Urban Forest Project Protocol, one of many protocols developed by the Climate Action Reserve, seeks to increase carbon storage by urban trees and quantify how tree planting, maintenance, and improved management activities reduce greenhouse gases. The Protocol provides detailed guidance to ensure that tree projects meet eligibility requirements, produce greenhouse gas reductions that are additional to a baseline, are sustained for at least 100 years, and do not detract from management of existing trees. It also describes how to calculate and report carbon storage by project trees as well as emissions associated with their maintenance.

The protocol was first adopted by the California Air Resources Board and the California Climate Action Registry in 2008, and was updated by the Climate Action Reserve in March 2010. Key elements are outlined in a protocol summary.

Urban forest projects anywhere in the United States can follow the new protocol and be reported to Climate Action Reserve, which will register and serialize greenhouse gas reductions after independent verification. If these offsets are sold or retired, the Climate Action Reserve will track their transaction, adding confidence and credibility to the voluntary carbon market.

Important changes to the revised protocol include:

  • To be eligible, the project must be submitted to the Climate Action Reserve no more than six months after the project start date. Projects may always be submitted for listing by the Reserve prior to their start date.
  • Project verification procedures are now included within the protocol.

Adoption of the Urban Forest Protocol sets the stage for investment in large-scale tree planting and stewardship projects because projects that adhere to the protocol’s guidance will generate real, reliable, additional, and permanent greenhouse gas reductions. Registered carbon reductions are "quality offsets" that pose less risk to investors than unregistered offsets.


Preparers: Greg McPherson, Jim Simpson, Dan Marconett, Paula Peper, and Elena Aguaron, Center for Urban Forest Research, Pacific Southwest Research Station

Adapted by Melanie Lenart, University of Arizona

External Links:
Urban Forest Project Protocol


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.